In 2012, China officially declared, as a national strategy of governance, the development of ecological consciousness, the promotion of what has been called “eco-civilization,” and the development of “ecological citizens.” In this paper, we argue that the concept of green burial reflects a number of the values underlying “eco-civilization” and ecological citizenship: respect for nature, respect for humanity, and the ecologically-sensitive rational awareness of the “harmony between nature (天 = Tien) and humanity (人 = Ren), as in the saying “天人合一” Tian Ren He Yi = “Nature and human beings combine into an integral whole”). The practice of green burial can play a valuable role in promoting the construction of an eco-civilization, although many people in China—and elsewhere—may be reluctant to accept it. One reason for this may be that the concept and practice of green burial are so new that it does not yet have a place in the ecological awareness of China’s citizens, who are the main subjects of the construction of eco-civilization. In our view, it is necessary to increase citizen awareness of green burials and their value, and to encourage people to participate in the practice. This is a reflection of the values that underlie ecological citizenship, but also serves to promote these values. While our proposal in this paper is to argue for green burial as an element in realizing this model of “eco-civilization” in China, its relevance clearly extends beyond the Chinese context.
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Beginning in 2007, at the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, and reiterated at the 18th National Congress in 2012, the Chinese government has "elevated ecological civilization as a political outline and national strategy of governance" (Zhang 2015). At the 18th Congress, it promoted what has been called ‘five-in-one’—that is, that five forms of construction (economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological), holistically united, are necessary to modernize China and promote “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” The fifth ‘element’, ecological construction, aims at improving the relation between the Chinese people and nature on the basis of sustainable development. This is sometimes also called “eco-civilization”.
The term “ecological citizenship” has come to be used in Western academia since the 1990s, meaning that citizens with ecological awareness must seek to respect the integrity of nature and maintain the ecological environment when carrying out their daily activities (Smith 1998).
See, for example, Green is Gold: The Strategy and Actions of China’s Ecological Civilization, United Nations Environment Programme (2016).
There is also the instrumental ‘ecological value’ of natural eco systems, in terms of the benefits of “the space. water, minerals, biota,” and related factors that “support native life forms.” See: Cordell et al. (2005).
See, for example, Xú (2014).
There is another method that is relevant, but that is very rarely adverted to in China. This is the method of “emulsification” or “resomation,” that is regarded by some as an even more ecologically harmonious method. See Briggs (2011).
For another example of an application of this principle to ecology, see Tilt (2014), p. 45.
The original text reads: “用其謀, 厚葬久喪實不可以富貧眾寡, 定危理亂乎, 此非仁非義,非孝子之事也, 為人謀者不可不沮也。2仁者將求除之天下, 相廢而使人非之, 終身勿為。(see Mozi 2016).
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The authors are grateful for the financial support from the National Social Science Fund (No. 13BZZ045), from the 2016 Annual Academic Innovation Program for Graduate Students in Jiangsu Province (KYLX16-0405), and from the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (No. AE15002_09).
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Zeng, C., Sweet, W. & Cheng, Q. Ecological Citizenship and Green Burial in China. J Agric Environ Ethics 29, 985–1001 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-016-9643-6
- Green burial
- Ecological citizenship